- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2009


Can we all agree that the “hope, “change” and “transparency” part of the Barack Obama media carnival is officially over, and it’s finally time that we start holding our new president accountable?

Consider the tale of the ubiquitous “Hope” poster that helped get Mr. Obama worshipped, inoculated and elected — and the anti-capitalist street artist who “created” it.

Shepard Fairey last week was sued for copyright infringement by the Associated Press, which claims he stole photographer Manny Garcia’s work and made it the basis of the iconic off-red, white and blue posters whose signed editions are being sold on eBay for thousands of dollars.

If found guilty — a liberal application of “fair use” law could protect Mr. Fairey — we have a case of the white man stealing from an ethnic minority in order to turn a quick profit. (I thought an Obama presidency would automatically end such practices.)

Chinese, Latin American and former Soviet Communist artists may also have a claim against Mr. Fairey, whose style is brazenly ripped off from the propaganda campaigns of totalitarian states. If regimes that murdered tens of millions of innocent human beings can be so revered and redeemed, can the swastika be reappropriated, too?

Later in the week, Mr. Fairey was arrested en route to his first solo exhibition — aptly called “Supply and Demand” — at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art. Apparently, the artist chosen by the current leader of the free world has been arrested 14 times, mainly for “tagging,” which is the art world’s euphemism of choice for graffiti and other forms of defacing private property.

Mr. Fairey’s previous “street art” sensation was “Obey” posters that littered urban America for a good portion of the Bush administration. Mr. Fairey was artistically positioning someone to cleanse the body politic of corruption and cynicism.

“The whole concept of ‘Obey’ was getting people to question their obedience,” Mr. Fairey told Wired magazine.

Yet Mr. Fairey and his fellow artists are now part of a seemingly endless artistic vanguard pledging obedience to their new leader. Those who codified the slogan “dissent is patriotic” now march lockstep with the new president, no matter what he does, and use their elevated place in society to cast an evil eye on those who question his early blunders.

It’s the type of thing George Orwell could have imagined.

And as irony would have it, Mr. Fairey recently designed the cover art for the new Penguin editions of Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm.”

Apparently, some artists are more equal than others — and intimidated by, dense to or profiting from the cult of personality that is being created by Hollywood and Madison Avenue and being abetted by the new president himself.

Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s celebrity-laden “Presidential Pledge” video is not a “Saturday Night Live” spoof, but the kind of reverence demanded by leaders of totalitarian regimes. During the election cycle, an all-black junior fraternity at the Urban Community Leadership Academy made a similar pledge to Mr. Obama that was viewed millions of times on YouTube.

Yet comedians, usually the artistic canaries in the coal mine, are tragically also pledging their fealty to Mr. Obama.

“It’s probably no secret where our politics lie,” a writer for “The Daily Show” told the New York Times when questioned on late-night obedience to Mr. Obama.

But to whom, exactly, are they pledging their troth? Think about the people Mr. Obama himself sought to run the government for him.

First, Gov. Bill Richardson dropped out of the running for the top post at the Commerce Department owing to a pending federal investigation into his personal financial relationship with businesses in New Mexico. Then Tom Daschle — he of the Sally Jessy Raphael red-frame glasses — stepped aside in his bid secretary of health and human services for not paying his taxes, a burden shared by Mr. Obama’s chief performance officer pick, Nancy Killefer.

Then there are the ones who made the cut.

Eric H. Holder Jr. is now the attorney general of the United States. At the end of his run as President Clinton’s deputy attorney general, Mr. Holder signed off on the disgraceful pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich, who brazenly used the corrupt political apparatus of the Clinton administration to buy his freedom. Now Mr. Holder is the top law enforcement officer in the country.

Of all the people to pick to run the Treasury Department … Timothy Geithner, we are told, is the only man in a land of 300 million who can oversee the financial-sector meltdown. Yet Mr. Geithner failed in his own personal oversight, not paying his Social Security and Medicare taxes during his stint at the International Monetary Fund.

Shouldn’t the avant-garde artists of our time at least be asking: Does Mr. Obama vet anyone?

While the Obama Cabinet choices suggest this is already among the more ethically questionable administrations in modern history, that’s not even a particularly big deal in my eyes.

The most disturbing thing going on in America today is the art world’s complete and utter totalitarian behavior toward the new president.

With the Fairness Doctrine possibly coming down the pike, perhaps the solution is for Rush Limbaugh to take up painting.

Andrew Breitbart is the founder of the news Web site breitbart.com and is co-author of “Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon — the Case Against Celebrity.”

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